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Temple signs 23 to National Letters of Intent

Matt Rhule AP

(Below is Temple’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PHILADELPHIA (2/6/13) – The Temple University Football Program, under the leadership of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Geographically, the states best represented in the Owl class are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ten student-athletes list their hometowns in the Keystone state, while 10 hail from the Garden state.

Additionally, two signees call New York home; one signee comes from Virginia.

Temple’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked in the BIG EAST Conference at No. 7 by Rivals.com and No. 9 by Scout.com. The Owls’ earned the top ranking in the Mid-American Conference in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Ten of the 19 high school signees attended the Temple Football Camp (53%). Over the past four years (2010-13), 71 percent of the signees have attended the Temple Football Camps.

Seven of the signees—Dion Dawkins, Paul Layton, Jihaad Pretlow, John Rizzo, Averee Robinson, Adrian Sullivan, and Kiser Terry— enrolled in classes in January 2013. Layton is a transfer student from the University of Albany.

The Owls begin spring practice on March 22 in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play in 2013. The squad’s annual Cherry & White spring game is slated for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m. at Edberg-Olson Hall. Temple returns 46 letterwinners and 15 starters, including Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Tyler Matakevich.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Temple’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jarred Alwan
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-1 • 215
Cherry Hill, N.J. • Camden Catholic HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 23 player in the state of New Jersey … played for coach Gil Brooks at Camden Catholic HS … participated in the North-South Game … selected Temple over Boston College and West Virginia.

Personal: Jarred Alwan … born November 30, 1993 … parents are Narci and Gamal Alwan … plans to study risk management and actuarial science in the Fox School of Business.

Matt Barone
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 280
McKees Rocks, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked 13th nationally at center … played for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011.

Personal: Matt Barone … born March 2, 1995 … Montour teammate Tyler Haddock is a fellow Temple signee.

Buddy Brown
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-2 • 205
Williamstown, N.J. • Williamstown HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, had 87 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles … participated in the North-South Game… selected Temple over more than 20 other BCS offers, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Personal: Shawn Brown, Jr. … born July 13, 1994 … parents are Tiffany and Shawn Brown, Sr. … has two sisters— Destiny (21) and Brianna (16) … father is a retired police officer … loves history … Williamstown teammate Jullian Taylor is a fellow Temple signee … considering a double major in kinesiology and business.

Brian Carter
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 280
Harrisburg, Pa. • Harrisburg HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Calvin Everett at Harrisburg HS … three-year starter … 2012 first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference honoree on offense … selected to participate in the Big 33 Game … selected Temple over Connecticut.

Personal: Brian Carter … born November 7, 1994 … parents are Melody Fleming and Melvin Washington … guardian is Tracey Smith.

Jim Cooper, Jr.
Placekicker/Punter • Freshman • 6-1 • 205
Linwood, N.J. • Mainland Regional HS

High School: U.S. Army All-American … three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Robert Coffey at Mainland Regional HS but kicking coach was his father, Jim Sr. … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Personal: James Cooper, Jr. … born October 19, 1994 … parents are Marie and James Cooper, Sr. … father was also a kicker at Temple (1983-86) under head coach Bruce Arians.

Dion Dawkins
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 330
Rahway, N.J. • Rahway HS • Hargrave Military Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played offensive tackle for coach Troy Davis during the 2012 season … bolstered an o-line that helped the Tigers rush for more than 150 yards per game … selected Temple over Cincinnati.

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Gary Mobley at Rahway HS … graduated in 2012 … participated in the North-South Game.

Personal: Dion Ray Dawkins … born April 26, 1994 … parents are Lisa Dawkins and Eric Dawkins.

Sharif Finch
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-4 • 210
Henrico, Va. • Henrico HS

High School: Played linebacker for coach Roger Brookes … as a senior, had 84 tackles and five sacks … as a junior, had 161 tackles and 10.5 sacks … selected Temple over Miami and East Carolina.

Personal: Sharif Finch … born October 1, 1995… parents are Wendy Finch and Greg Finch … originally from Queens, N.Y.

Artrel Foster
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 170
Meadville, Pa. • Meadville HS

High School: Played cornerback and running back for coach Mike Feleppa at Meadville HS … four-year varsity starter … in prep career, had 4,248 all-purpose yards, including 3,249 rushing yards on 499 carries, 37 touchdowns, 130 tackles, and six interceptions … 2012 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for 101 yards in 2012 season opener against Northwestern … named one of the Top 100 juniors in Pennsylvania … 2011 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and sophomore … as a junior, had three interceptions … also a 2012 first-team All-Region honoree in basketball on defense and second-team All-Region on offense … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … also played basketball … selected Temple over Cincinnati and Penn State.

Personal: Artrel Jonte Foster … born June 24, 1995, in Meadville, Pa. …. parents are Tammy Foster and Art Bell … has an older sister, Asia Foster (24), and a younger brother, Armoni Foster (13) … cousin is Wade Manning, former WR/CB (1979-82) for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos … considering a career in graphic design or athletic training.

Tyler Haddock
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-2 • 290
Pittsburgh, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-year letterwinner at defensive tackle for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … unanimous All-Parkway Conference selection as a two-way player … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … in prep career, had 120 tackles and 15 sacks … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011 … totaled 100career tackles, 26 TFL, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries at the end of his junior season … also a three-year letterwinner in wrestling … went 60-29 … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … started in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … Honor Roll student … active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters … selected Temple over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Personal: Tyler James Haddock … born December 16, 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pa. … parents are Sharon Jones and John Jones (stepfather) … Montour teammate Matt Barone is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study sports management.

Todd Jeter
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 169
Monroeville, Pa. • Gateway HS

High School: Played wide receiver and defensive back for former coach Terry Smith, now at Temple, at Gateway HS … also returned punts … 2012 All-State selection … 2012 Quad East All-Star … 2012 second-team All-Foothills Conference honoree on defense … helped the Gators to a 9-2 record in 2012 en route to a Quad East championship with a perfect 8-0 record … team advanced to the WPIAL AAAA playoffs … as a senior in 2012, had 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns while making 27 tackles and two interceptions … averaged 20 yards per catch … played for the North squad in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected for the 2013 Big 33 Game.

Personal: Todd Jeter … mother is Renee Boswell.

Leon Johnson
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-6 • 300
Plainfield, N.J. • Bound Brook HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Dom Longo at Bound Brook HS … as a senior, had 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops … also played center for the Crusaders’ basketball team … selected Temple over South Florida and Ohio State.

Personal: Hubert Leon Johnson … prefers middle name … born June 4, 1995 … mother is Valerie Graves.

Paul Layton
Punter • Senior • 6-1 • 215
Burnt Hills, N.Y. • Ballston Lake HS • Albany

Transfer student from the University at Albany … enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … graduated in December 2012 … has one season of eligibility.

Honors: 2012, 2011, and 2010 first-team All-Northeast Conference honoree … 2012 College Football Performance FCS Punter Watch List … 2012 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team … named the 2011 Great Danes’ Most Valuable Special Teams Player (team award) … named a 2011 ECAC Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Special Team All-Star … Northeast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (twice) … 2010 NEC Academic Honor Roll … 2009 Capital District Student Scholarship.

College: Three-year letterwinner at punter for head coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany … averaged 41.0 yards in career. 2012: Played in all 11 games at punter … averaged a league-best 40.4 yards per punt, including a program record 82-yarder vs. Wagner (11/3) … punted 46 times with 11 sailing 50-yards or longer … dropped 15 within the 20-yard line. 2011: Averaged 42.6 yards per punt, ranking 9th among the national leaders … booted 17 kicks of 50 or more yards. 2010: Averaged 40.1 yard per punt as a redshirt freshman … ranked 31st among the national leaders and third in the Northeast Conference … placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line, including seven for touchbacks … booted 50-plus yard punts 12 times … tied 13th-longest punt in school history with 69-yarder in season finale against Monmouth … kicked a 63-yard punt at Duquesne and a 61-yarder at Maine. 2009: Redshirted. Selected Temple over Penn State and Notre Dame.

High School: Four-year letterwinner for coach Matt Shell at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake HS … 2008 Class A first-team All-State selection by New York State Sportswriters Association as a kicker … made 68 of 69 PATs and three field goals … third on all-time Section II kicking list with 77 points … averaged 42 yards per punt … all-time leader in Section II history with 172 career kicking points … 2008 Large School Offensive Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union … first-team All-Area by Daily Gazette and Troy Record … led high school to state championship game as a quarterback … passed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns … rushed for 1,186 yards and 20 TDs … BHBL won second sectional title in last three years … consensus All-Area punter as a junior, when he averaged 41 yards per attempt … earned third-team All-State honors as a quarterback … career stats: 2,861 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 2,002 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs … four varsity awards as basketball guard … two-time team captain … National Honor Society member … Math Honor Society member … Business Honor Society member … participated in Big Brothers.

Personal: Paul K. Layton … born November 5, 1990, in Burnt Hills, N.Y. … parents are Karen and Jim Layton … has two older sisters, Jessica (32) and Lauren (26), and an older brother, Steve (30) … all siblings were college athletes … brother played tight end at Union College … Jessica played soccer at Syracuse, and Lauren played field hockey at SUNY Oswego … graduated from Albany in December 2012 with a degree in business administration… pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

Jihaad Pretlow
Defensive Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 185
Elizabeth, N.J. • Blair Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Jim Stone at Blair Academy … as a junior, rushed for 838 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Bucs went 7-0 overall … also made four interceptions as a defensive back … played two seasons with nationally ranked basketball team … selected Temple over Connecticut, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Personal: Jihaad Pretlow … born March 15, 1994 … parents are Bayyinah Pretlow and Malik Jackson … father played football at Rutgers in the early 1990s … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee P.J. Walker.

Shane Rafter
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 282
Moorestown, N.J. • Moorestown HS

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Russ Horton … three-year letterwinner … 2012 All-County honoree on defense … helped the Quaker to the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs … as a junior, had 61 tackles and three sacks … the first player to commit to Temple in the 2013 class … participated in the 2011 National Underclassmen Combine … also a two-year letterwinner in track and ice hockey … selected Temple over Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.

Personal: Shane Rafter … born July 7, 1994 … parents are John and Barb Rafter … has a sister, Jamie.

Semaj Reed
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-7 • 270
Philadelphia, Pa. • Haverford School

High School: Played defensive end for coach Michael Murphy at the Haverford School … also played basketball … selected Temple over Buffalo and Maryland.

Personal: Semaj Reed … mother is Jacqueline Reed … originally from Newburgh, N.Y. … interested in political science, criminal justice, and business.

John Rizzo
Fullback • Freshman • 6-1 • 221
Johnstown, Pa. • Richland HS

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Brandon Bailey at Richland HS … 2012 Tribune-Democrat first-team All-Area … as a senior, rushed for 1,769 yards and 20 touchdowns … played in the East-East Game … three-time state heavyweight wrestling champion … selected Temple over Penn State, Pitt, and Georgia Tech.

Personal: John Rizzo … born February 13, 1993 … parents are Lynda and Tony Rizzo … has six siblings— Anthony (26), Marlena (24), Frank (23), Joe (21), Christina (15), and Mario (14).

Averee Robinson
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-1 • 285
Harrisburg, Pa. • Susquehanna Township HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy.

High School: Played defensive tackle for coach Joe Headen at Susquehanna Township HS … 2011 Harrisburg Patriot-News first-team Defensive All-Star … as a junior, had 46 tackles and eight sacks … also wrestled … won consecutive PIAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 2012 and 2011… attended the 2010 Temple Football Camp.

Personal: Averee Robinson … born October 17, 1993 … parents are Terry and Adrian Robinson, Sr. … older brother is former Temple Owl and three-time first-team All-MAC DE Adrian Robinson (2008-11) who just finished his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adrian Sullivan
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 270
Babylon, N.Y. • Babylon HS • Worchester Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played one season for coach Tony Johnson at Worcester Academy (Mass.) … Honor Roll student.

High School: Played offensive tackle and defensive end for coach Rick Punzone at Babylon Junior-Senior HS … team went 15-6 his last two seasons … named to the 2012 Best Players on Long Island Honor Roll for basketball.

Personal: Adrian Sullivan, Jr. … parents are Sonja Stewart and the late Adrian Sullivan, Sr. … uncle is former Temple and current San Diego Chargers assistant coach Andrew Dees.

Jullian Taylor
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 230
Glenside, Pa. • Williamstown (N.J.) HS

High School: Versatile athlete … played defensive end, tight end, and linebacker for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … 2012 All-State, All-Mid Athletic, All-Group 5, and All-South Jersey honoree … team went a perfect 12-0 en route to the 2012 state Class 5 championship as a senior, had 60 tackles and 14 sacks … participated in the North-South Game … volunteered for Mastery Charter School’s beautification project … selected Temple over Iowa and Virginia Tech.

Personal: Jullian Patrick Taylor … born January 30, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pa. … parents are Rufus Taylor and Rolanda Brewer … has a younger brother, Jay (8), and a younger sister, Mia (8) … father is a Temple alum who was a walk-on the men’s basketball team in 1989 … Williamstown teammate Buddy Brown is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study business.

Kiser Terry
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 260
Feasterville, Pa. • Neshaminy HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy … saw action at defensive end.

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … selected to play in the 2012 Big 33 Game and the 2011 Chesapeake Bowl … team captain … played defensive end and tight end for coach Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy HS … 2011 PA Football News Honorable Mention All-State honoree … 2011 EasternPAFootball.com Honorable Mention All-State selection … 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer first-team All-Southeastern PA pick … 2011 Suburban One first-team All-Conference honoree … 2011 Neshaminy Mr. Lineman coaches’ award recipient … 2010 second-team All-Conference selection … Redskins went 12-2 in 2010, his junior season, and advanced to the District 1 AAAA championship game … as a junior, had 47 tackles, including 40 solo stops, a team-best six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Personal: Kiser Terry … born August 11, 1993 … mother is Betty Terry … older brother Terrell Channell lettered in football at Temple in 2006.

Jahad Thomas
Running Back • Freshman • 5-10 • 170
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Ranked the fourth-best running back in the state of New Jersey … all-purpose back for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … helped team to the 2012 state title … participated in the North-South Game … captained two sports as a junior … starter on the nationally ranked basketball team.

Personal: Jahad Thomas … born November 6, 1995 … parents are Connie Thomas and Eddie Roberts … Elizabeth HS teammate P.J. Walker is a fellow Temple signee.

P.J. Walker
Quarterback • Freshman • 6-1 • 200
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Dual-threat quarterback for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … 2012 Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year … helped team to the 2012 state title … as a junior, one of the state’s most accurate passers … went 120-of-189 (63.5 percent) for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns … in the NJSIAA sectional final against Piscataway, threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 199 yards and a touchdown … four-year starter … participated in the North-South Game … also played basketball … team reached the 2012 Group 4 final … selected Temple over Connecticut and Rutgers.

Personal: Phillip Walker, Jr. … born February 26, 1995… parents are Tamicha Drake and Phillip Walker, Sr. … Elizabeth HS teammate Jahad Thomas is a fellow Temple signee … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee Jihaad Pretlow.

Zaire Williams
Running Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 188
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked by Rivals as the No. 36 overall running back and New Jersey’s 16th-best player overall … played for coach Rob Hinson … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected Temple over West Virginia.

Personal: Zaire Williams … born October 25, 1994 … father is Bruce Williams.

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Beavers’ standout center may not be ready to start season

Oregon State v Arizona State

Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo became an instant starter for the Beavers the day he stepped onto the team’s practice field as a true freshman. Seumalo, however, may not open the season as a starter this fall due to a broken foot he suffered during the Hawaii Bowl.

Seumalo missed all of spring practice due to his recovery, and Oregon State head coach Mike Riley doesn’t have a definitive timetable for the center’s return.

“I think it’s on pretty good schedule to be ready to play, if not at the very first game, early,” Riley told the Oregonian’s Gina Mizell at Pac-12 Media Days. “So we’re going to be very, very careful with that. So that’s why I’m being very careful when I say he’s going to play. But I anticipate him being ready. I would think he might be ready for the first game, but maybe not.”

Oregon State opens the season against against the Portland State Vikings and returns to the islands to play the Hawaii Warriors on Sept. 6. If Seumalo hasn’t returned to the lineup by that point, the Beavers have an open date, which will grant the lineman an extra week to heal.

Seumalo, who was named to the Outland Trophy watch list this summer, is one of the nation’s top interior blockers. He’s already considered the top center prospect for the 2016 NFL draft by ESPN’s draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr.

“Seumalo is another center who could easily move to guard, and is also athletic enough to handle tackle,” Kiper wrote. “He already has 25 starts, but will be coming into the season with a layer rust after missing the spring with a foot injury.”

Riley is considering the possibility of moving Seumalo to guard upon his return. Riley told Mizell that he actually prefers Seumalo to play right guard, while sophomore Grant Bays steps in as the team’s new center.

Either way, the Oregon State offensive line is far better with a healthy Seumalo in the lineup than when he’s not.

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Ohio State AD: B1G expansion ‘is about money’

Gene Smith

Ohio State AD Gene Smith knows how to pander to his audience. Within the course of two days, Smith gave two different spins on the addition of Rutgers (and Maryland) to the Big Ten Conference.

Smith defended the league’s addition of Rutgers Saturday in an interview with NJ.com’s Dan Duggan.

Smith stated Rutgers “will bring a lot to the table.” The Buckeyes’ athletic director complimented Rutgers’ prestigious academic programs. He also mentioned the football team’s success under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school put into the program during that period.

The idea Rutgers was chosen to become a member of the Big Ten Conference due to a business decision was merely an after thought.

Smith was far more candid Sunday during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch’s Todd Jones. When Smith was asked directly about the Big Ten’s additions of Rutgers and Maryland, Smith stated the obvious.

“From a business point of view, it makes huge sense,” Smith told Jones. “This is a business deal. This is about money. Everybody wants to dodge that; I don’t. It’s about the stability of our conference for the long term.”

Smith looks at these moves as a way to adjust to the changing landscape of college football and the United States’ shifting population.

“It provides a new geography for us to have a presence in, for a number of reasons: television, recruiting, (and) providing Penn State with some geographical partners,” Smith stated. “The reality is, growth was inevitable for intercollegiate athletic conferences. We needed to be part of that.

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason enough by itself to look at the concept of expansion.”

With the Big Ten’s media days set to commence Monday and Tuesday, a big spectacle will be made of the additions of Rutgers and Maryland. The two programs will be accepted as equals among the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, etc. The reality is these program were merely business acquisitions which proved to be a means to an end for the Big Ten Conference.

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Steve Spurrier expects Mike Davis to turn pro after season

Mike Davis

South Carolina RB Mike Davis rushed for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. If he has a similar junior campaign, Davis won’t return to Columbia for his senior season.

“Mike Davis, if he has a big year, he’s going to go pro,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff after his annual media golf event Thursday. “And we’re going to tell him to go pro, because he should. The lifespan of a running back is only a certain amount of years. If a young man after three years can go, we’re going to shake his hand and let him go. That’s why you keep recruiting more running backs.”

After Spurrier watched former RB Marcus Lattimore suffer two major knee injuries, which put his potential professional career in jeopardy, the coach’s only recourse is to recommend Davis leaves after this season, whether he has an outstanding year or not.

“The thing as a running back is your life expectancy isn’t long in the NFL,” South Carolina running backs coach Everette Sands told Aschoff. “Here in the SEC, it’s probably the closest thing to the NFL.”

South Carolina will help Davis by employing a running back rotation this fall with fellow juniors Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson in the backfield. This will prevent some of the wear and tear other feature backs around the country will experience.

While Davis isn’t considered the top running back prospect potentially available for the 2015 NFL draft — that distinction belongs to Georgia’s Todd Gurley — his size (5-9, 223) coupled with a physical running style projects well to the next level. Early projections rank Davis as a Top 5 prospect at his position prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Davis’ ability to play at a high level and avoid injuries will set him up to make an easy decision after the season.

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Auburn’s Gabe Wright expects to bounce between DT and DE

Gabe Wright, Bo Wallace

While Auburn’s run to the national title game last season was spurred by the team’s innovative offense and overwhelming rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense was led by defensive tackle Gabe Wright. Wright proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the nation, but his role is expected to expand this fall.

Wright will start the season at defensive tackle, but he’ll also be expected to receive repetitions at defensive end.

Wright was forced to play defensive end during spring practice due to injuries along the defensive line, and the Tigers’ coaching staff came away  impressed with his play.

“(Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner) actually wanted to put me in last year, but he just stated I wasn’t mentally ready,” Wright told al.com’s Brandon Marcello. “I respect and I don’t second-guess his decision. If I’m called upon, I will answer the call. There’s no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.”

Wright also wasn’t physically ready to play defensive end last year. He’s down to 290 pounds with enough the athleticism to set the edge and rush the passer.

“I’ve been wanting to drop down body weight since I’ve been here — and body fat –  which has been done,” Wright said.

Wright’s versatility will provide insurance along the Tigers’ defensive line after losing Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to a potential season-ending ACL injury. Wright’s ability to provide depth at defensive end also allows the ultra-talented Montravius Adams to gain more repetitions at defensive tackle.

While Wright remains one of the best interior defenders in college football, his biggest contribution this season may be his ability to play defensive end until Lawson is fully healthy or one of the Tigers’ young pass rushers are ready to take over the spot.

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Urban Meyer’s wife tells Gator fans to ‘get over it’

25th Outback Bowl - Florida Gators v Penn State Nittany Lions

Urban Meyer won 65 games, three SEC championships and two national titles during his six seasons as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Yet, there is still lingering resentment within the Gators’ fan base regarding how Meyer left the program.

Meyer’s wife, Shelley Meyer, isn’t happy with the grief her husband still has to endure from faceless detractors.

“All of my comments are about message board people,” Shelley Meyer told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. “I still go to Gainesville four times a year. Nobody ever says anything mean to me. What I care about are the people down there who love us and know us. The people who hate us I don’t even know.

“I just wish people would get over it. I wish we could have been there 12 years. I’m the most bummed that we weren’t there 12 years.”

For some of the irrational members of the fan base, it was about more than slipping to an 8-5 record in 2010. It wasn’t about the large contingent of malcontents left on the roster when Will Muschamp took over the program. Urban Meyer’s decision to leave the program due to health concerns and then take the Ohio State coaching job a year later was a betrayal of the fans’ trust.

“But here is my perception (about Florida fans): I think they feel like they were kind of left at the altar,” Shelley Meyer said. “They feel a betrayal, even though they were so mad at him about how our last season (2010) went. You can’t please them. You can’t please all fans anywhere; you can’t. And I’ve just accepted that, and I love when our fans are behind us and support us and I love that they love their team, but we can’t take it personally.

“Because, not one person that is close to us (from their time in Florida) has ever come up and said anything bad. ‘Why did you leave? You faked it. You weren’t sick. You had this Ohio State thing lined up the entire time.’ I would hear that all the time, and I was like ‘Uh, no.’ Because I was not coming here. So, trust me, that was not planned. So, the people who are critical of us, it’s not the people who know us. It’s the people who aren’t even around the program. They just want their team to win, and whoever can get their team to win, that’s who they’re for. And if you can’t do it or if you left them, then they’ll hate you.”

The Gators’ fan base is also currently suffering from envy. It’s easy to see how well the Buckeyes have played under Urban Meyer’s direction. Ohio State is 24-2 the past two years. Florida, meanwhile, is 22-16 under Muschamp, and the program is coming off a 4-8 season.

Only time and Florida once again playing at a high level will defuse the hatred toward the Meyers that currently exists within a fan base that previously adored them.

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Report: Big Ten plans to play more games in NYC

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame

The Big Ten Conference is adamant about expanding its presence on the East Coast, particularly in New York City.

Adding Rutgers to the league, reaching an agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl and opening an office in Manhattan wasn’t quite enough to sate the conference’s desires.

The Big Ten Conference is considering hosting regular season contests in New York City at Yankee Stadium and Washington D.C., according to cbssports.com’s Jeremy Fowler.

The conference would use the neutral sites to help cultivate rivalries between Penn State and its newest members, Rutgers and Maryland.

“Like with Yankee Stadium — would there be a case where Rutgers or Penn State or Maryland, would they want to move a game to an iconic stadium like that?” Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman posed to Fowler. “You could bring in, for Rutgers, probably another 10 to 15,000 people there. Is that a game that makes sense to move there? Probably.”

It can also serve as an opportunity for the new schools to benefit from the more established programs in the conference. Teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have national followings and their fans travel well. Bigger venues to host these programs will be beneficial for both the programs playing in the games and the conference.

High-profile venues can also be used to entice marquee opponents as additions to non-conference schedules. Rutgers, for example, will travel to Seattle this fall to open the season against the Pac-12′s Washington State Cougars at CenturyLink Field. Rutgers can use the lure of Yankee Stadium to bring in other opponents from the Pac-12, Big 12 or SEC.

By potentially using stadiums at key demographic locations, the Big Ten Conference will be taking full advantage of its expanded footprint and the markets it cherished when the decision was made to expand to 14 teams.

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UCLA specialist leaves team, replaced by JUCO punter

Jim Mora

Football coaches never let their teams or its fans forget that special teams are a third of the game.

UCLA expected to be strong on special teams this fall with both their kicker and punter returning after last season. Instead, UCLA head coach Jim Mora must deal with replacing one of the Bruins’ specialists as fall camp approaches.

Punter Sean Covington has left the team, according to bruinreportonline.com’s Tracy Pierson. A reason behind the departure has yet to be divulged.

Covington finished fourth in the Pac-12 Conference last season with an average of 42.6 yards per punt, and he received an honorable mention as an all-conference performer. Covington booted nine punts of 50 yards or longer and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 18 times. Covington was expected to be even better this season after winning the job as a true freshman.

UCLA plans to replace Covington with the JUCO addition of Matt Mengel.

“He has an NFL leg,” kicker/punter guru Chris Sailer says told Pierson. “Strongest leg I’ve seen since (USC’s) David Buehler. Huge in kickoffs. Big potential as a field goal kicker and punter. The sky is the limit.”

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Kevin Sumlin issues challenge to Bob Stoops

Kevin Sumlin

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops recently took a shot at a former rival, the Texas A&M Aggies, and their soft non-conference schedule during an interview with ESPN. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t back down from the challenge when asked about Stoops’ comments.

“Coach Stoops has the right to say whatever he wants, but if he wants to play us again we’ll take him up on that,” Sumlin told aggiesports.com.

It was the perfect response from Sumlin. Not only does he avoid going tit-for-tat with Stoops, but it’s a potential opportunity to strengthen the Aggies’ schedule in the future and rekindle a playing relationship against Texas A&M’s former conference, the Big 12.

The reality is Stoops was correct in his assessment. Texas A&M doesn’t play a bunch of “toughies.”

Since Sumlin took over the program, the Aggies’ non-conference schedule has included the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, SMU Mustangs, South Carolina State Bulldogs, Sam Houston State BearKats, Rice Owls, UTEP Miners, Lamar Cardinal and ULM Warhawks.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, has scheduled the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (twice) and the Tennessee Volunteers over the same period.

The blame can’t be laid at Sumlin’s feet. Schedules are made years in advance. Even so, the programs Texas A&M scheduled were never among the country’s best. But that’s set to change in the coming years when Texas A&M plays the Arizona State Sun Devils (2015) and the UCLA Bruins (2016).

And there is still room to add the Sooners to those schedules.

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Rich Rodriguez’s message to Nick Saban: ‘Cry me a river’

During SEC media days, Alabama head coach Nick Saban once again made his case for a rule to be implemented which would slow some of the uptempo offenses found around college football.

Saban cited injury concerns as well as a lack of player development and coaching as reasons why college football needs to slow the pace of these offenses.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is having none of what Saban is selling.

“Cry me a river. No one comes to games to watch defensive coaches,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy.

There are two positions which clearly exist within this bickering.

First and foremost, Saban sees uptempo play and lack of substitutions as a competitive advantage for teams that play at a major faster pace than most of the teams in the SEC. Meanwhile, those coaches who can’t recruit with the likes of Alabama simply see it as a way to even the playing field.

And, despite Rodriguez’s bold claim, Alabama is one of the most successful teams in college football with a defensive mastermind at the helm. Rodriguez may be an offensive genius, but the Arizona Wildcats are 16-10 the last two seasons and the coach has never led a team to a national championship game.

Nick Saban’s response to Rodriguez should be very simple — to paraphrase hockey great Patrick Roy — “I can’t hear what Rich is saying, because my ears are blocked with two of my four national championship rings.”

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Ohio State AD: ‘Rutgers will bring a lot to the table’

Gene Smith

As the wheels of conference realignment spun, a league’s “footprint” became more important than athletic success. A school’s market was more valuable than what it could bring to the field of play.

The Big Ten Conference’s inclusion of Rutgers may have been the most obvious case of a “Big 5″ conference looking more at a school’s location than how it will improve the league’s level of play.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, however, believes Rutgers is a major asset to the Big Ten.

“There’s some long-term historic rivalries, like ours with that team up north, and then there’s those that emerge,” Smith told NJ.com’s Dan Duggan. “I think the Rutgers-Penn State one will probably elevate itself over time and it will be one of those contests that everybody will look forward to all the time. I think Rutgers will bring a lot to the table.”

Smith cited the school’s previous success on the gridiron under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school pumped into the program during that era. The Scarlet Knights were 56-33 with six bowl appearances during Schiano’s seven seasons.

Under the supervision of Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights have remained competitive. They were 9-4 in 2012 but stumbled to 6-7 last season.

Despite these middling results against lesser competition, Rutgers remained attractive to the Big Ten Conference. Smith admitted the school’s location in New Jersey, as part of the New York City market, still remains a factor in Rutgers’ inclusion to the league.

“The East Coast, obviously from a market point of view, is huge for us,” Smith. “We have to have a presence on the East Coast and Penn State needed some partners on the East Coast. Rutgers does that.”

Even when another athletic director within the Big Ten Conference defends the inclusion of Rutgers from an academic and athletic standpoint, the school’s location still remains the No. 1 reason they were invited. After all, the Scarlets Knights are expected to finish last in the Big Ten’s eastern division.

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Stanford’s Ty Montgomery could miss USC game

California v Stanford

Stanford’s Ty Montgomery is one of the nation’s top wide receivers, but he may not be ready to play by the start of the season.

Montgomery already missed the entirety of spring practice after he underwent surgeries on his arm and knee. Stanford head coach David Shaw then told Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News during Pac-12 media days that Montgomery is questionable for the season-opener against UC-Davis and “It will be close for USC.”

Montgomery led Stanford with 958 receiving yards last season. He was also named a Walter Camp All-American as a returner after he  averaged 30.3 yards per kick return.

Standford’s staff plans to bring Montgomery along slowly, and the coaches hope he will be ready by the end of the summer.

“Hopefully, by the end of training camp, he’ll be able to do more contact stuff,” Shaw added.

If Montgomery misses a game or two, Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will have to rely heavily on senior WR Devon Cajuste. Cajuste finished second on the team last season with 642 receiving yards. Sophomore Francis Owusu would be first in line to fill in for Montgomery until his return.

And Stanford can always rely heavily on its overwhelming running attack if the passing game sputters.

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Report: Penn State tabs Sandy Barbour as new AD

CAL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR SANDY BARBOUR

After two and half years of turmoil in the school’s leadership, Penn State University has finally found the person it wants to lead its athletic programs.

Sandy Barbour, who previously served as Cal’s athletic director, will take over the same role at Penn State, according to ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy. Barbour fills the role vacated by soon-to-be-retired Penn State AD Dave Joyner, who took over the position after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Barbour, 54, was Cal’s athletic director from 2004 until she resigned from the position on June 27. Prior to Cal, Barbour served as Notre Dame’s deputy director of athletics from 2002 to ’04.

During her time with the Golden Bears, the university’s football team was 68-57.  However, the program has been on a steady decline over the past four years. Part of the reason Barbour was eventually forced out at Cal was based on the football program’s 1-11  record last season and it finished dead last in the Pac-12 among graduation rates.

Barbour was able to get a new stadium built for the football program, but she left Cal with $445 million in debt due to athletic renovations, according to the San Francisco Gate.

There will also be a question of how Barbour will mesh with the coaching staffs already in place.

Penn State’s football program was kept afloat by former head coach Bill O’Brien. Once O’Brien left for the NFL, Penn State made a major hire by luring James Franklin away from Vanderbilt. However, there are always concerns over how attached a new athletic director is with a head coach they didn’t hire.

Barbour will provide Penn State with something the university has lacked in recent years…stability. But her recent track record makes this a questionable hire.

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Reserve LB is fifth Georgia defender arrested this off season

Georgia v Clemson

It hasn’t exactly been a banner off season for the Georgia Bulldogs and head coach Mark Richt.

The team’s off-the-field issues continued Saturday morning when reserve linebacker Davin Bellamy was arrested on charges of DUI and speeding, according to the Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) jail log. Bellamy, a redshirt freshman, was booked at 5:02 a.m. and released an hour and 20 minutes later after posting a $2,000 bond.

Bellamy is the fifth member of the Bulldogs’ defense to be arrested this off season.  The linebacker’s arrest comes on the heels of the team dismissing defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor from the team Wednesday after his second arrest. Taylor was the third member of the unit to be dismissed.

Since this is Bellamy’s first offense, he isn’t expected to be dismissed from the team, but the Georgia’s student-athlete handbook stipulates that any athlete with a DUI charge is required to be suspended for 20 percent of the team’s season. As a result, Bellamy will miss at least the first two games of the season against the Clemson Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Coach Richt could decide to extend the suspension beyond two games if he deems it necessary.

The loss of Bellamy deals a blow to the Bulldogs’ linebacker depth. Bellamy, a three-star recruit in the 2013 class, was projected to be a backup behind junior Jordan Jenkins at Jack linebacker. Without Bellamy in the lineup, sophomore Johnny O’Neal will now have an opportunity to gain more playing time within the linebacker rotation.

Bellamy’s arrest is the seventh overall for the program since the end of last season and the 32nd in the past four years.

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It cost $8.78 million for Auburn to buyout Gene Chizik and staff

Auburn v Georgia

Auburn wanted to buyout the contract of former head coach Gene Chizik so badly the school was willing to carve out $8.78 million just to move on. According to a report from Al.com, Auburn set aside nearly that much to buyout the contracts of Chizik and the assistant coaching staff before bringing Gus Malzahn back to Auburn.

As reported, Auburn was originally prepared to spend $11.09 million to buyout the various contracts but the total was reduced as coaches found jobs elsewhere. Chizik, who led Auburn to a national championship just four seasons ago, received a buyout of $7.5 million to account for the remainder of his money owed on his contract. Auburn will pay Chizik a little more than $200,000 per month through the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The remainder of the $8.78 million in buyout money was reserved for former assistant coaches Scot Loeffler, Brian VanGorder and Trooper Taylor. All three coaches have received their final buyout payments.

Auburn worked in the red last year, but with the buyout costs starting to trim down and with a nice boost from revenue sharing through the addition of the SEC Network, Auburn should be in decent shape a year from now.

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Southern Miss CB caught in horribly executed armed robbery

Southern Miss v Nebraska

Police say a Southern Mississippi football player has admitted he had a role in planning an armed robbery. Defensive back Ed Wilkins was one of two men involved in the criminal planning, and now he has been indefinitely suspended by the school while the legal process plays out. The university is also investigating the situation. The Sun Herald was first to report the story.

Wilkins and his alleged accomplice, Michael Bailey, were booked in a county jail Friday evening, according to The Sun Herald. A bail was set for each at $75,000.

“This is a serious matter,” Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken said in a statement. “Ed has been removed from the program while we gather additional information.”

The details from a police report state Wilkins and Bailey had a plan to go to a residence in search of money and drugs. Police responded Friday morning to an armed robbery in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and discovered Bailey, who told officers he was just visiting some former roommates to smoke marijuana. Wilkins had reportedly entered the residence with a handgun equipped with a laser and wearing a ski mask while demanding money. When police arrive don the scene, Wilkins was found hiding in a car across the street.

What a masterful plan at work.

Wilkins started nine games for Southern Miss last season, recording 39 tackles and one interception.

Helmet sticker to Dr. Saturday.

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